Anisimov happy to remain a Ranger
Monday March 07th 2011, 7:40 am
Artem Anisimov talks to Andrei Nazarov following the New York Rangers loss to the Buffalo Sabres on March 3, 2011.

Photo: Vasily Osipov, Sport-Express

Though still a work in progress, New York Rangers sophomore Artem Anisimov has spent the majority of his second season in the NHL centering the Rangers top trio, regularly facing opposing teams’ top checking or scoring lines and playing a major role in the team’s ability to overcome injuries and remain in the hunt for a playoff berth.  His improvement has been reflected on the scoresheet:  Just 58 games into his sophomore year, the 22-year old Russian’s 13-18-31 stat line eclipsed his rookie totals in all three categories — goals (12), assists (16), and points (28).  And with 14 games remaining, he’s just four goals shy of the first of what Rangers fans hope will be many 20+ goal campaigns as a Blueshirt.

Anisimov’s progress as a player has not only turned the head of Russian national team assistant coach Andrei Nazarov, who was in New York last week to talk to the young pivot about a potential role on Russia’s World Championship team this spring, but the heads of scouts and general managers around the league as well.  That became all the more evident at the NHL Trade Deadline, when the Yaroslavl native was included in a rumored blockbuster trade for Dallas center Brad Richards that (fortunately) never took place.

After the Rangers’ 3-2 defeat by the Buffalo Sabres last Tuesday, Sport Express reporter Vasily Osipov met with Anisimov to talk to him about his second season in the NHL.  Their conversation covered Anisimov’s growth as a player, his role on the team, the visit from Nazarov, and his feelings on being the focus of recent trade rumors.  A translation of Osipov’s interview is provided below.

- What was the reason for the loss in the game against [Buffalo,] a principle adversary in the fight to make the playoffs?

- In terms of tension, the game reminded me of a playoff game.  The speeds were crazy, there were battles on every inch of the ice.  The Sabres had more success, most likely, because they converted on their chances.  For the most part, we weren’t able to solve the most valuable player of the last Olympic Games — Ryan Miller.  The American goaltender once again played above all praise.  The defeat, of course, is disappointing, but the situation still depends only on us.  We must not relax at all, and continue to fight for a win in every game, for the playoffs.

- But blame can’t be placed on you — you were very active and effective…

- I’m still working at consistently having one hundred percent concentration on the ice.

- Today, having scored your fourteenth goal, you broke your personal goal-scoring record for a season.  And many experts say that Anisimov has improved very much this year. Who better than you can best reveal the secret of your progress?

- First and foremost it’s due to hard work in practice.  And in general, progress is made up of small components.  For example, the ability to read the play, anticipate an opponent’s actions.  Improvement in each component results in improvement in your play in general.  In addition, I’ve gained experience, which helps one feel more confidence.  So now I get more enjoyment from hockey than a few years ago.

- Do you feel that head coach [John] Tortorella trusts you more?

- Yes, you get those feelings when you’re put out in the final, deciding minutes of a game.  When, in essence, you have no margin for error, and the game’s result depends on you.  At those times the adrenaline is overwhelming.  Post-game shootouts are the same way.  During these moments the coach’s trust is also shown.  I’m very glad that I’m often not left as an extra in the deciding moments of a game.

- Do you worry on the ice like you used to?

- It’s already much less than in my first season, when I often just didn’t know where to go or what to do (laughs).  Now I can control my nerves, even in critical situations.

- At the trade deadline there were persistent rumors that you would be traded to Dallas for the Canadian Brad Richards.  What thoughts did you have that day?

- There was some nervousness, of course.  But I tried not to get caught up in it. I plugged away in practice as usual.  Only in the locker room did the guys tell me that it was a real possibility.  Naturally, I was very happy that the deal ultimately didn’t take place and I remained with the Rangers.  It’ll give me additional strength to prove that their trust in me isn’t in vain, and to help the team win a ticket to the playoffs.

- On the Russian national team you’re no longer relegated to the role of fourth line center.  On the contrary, the coaching staff expects you to be one of the leaders.  Are you ready for such responsibility?

- It’s difficult to talk about it now, because you really need to be in a concrete situation.  So let’s wait and see.

- This coming summer you’ll become a free agent.  Could that influence your prospects to play in Slovakia [at the World Championship]?

- Let’s not rush things.

- And the last question: How did your conversation with [Team Russia assistant coach] Andrei Nazarov, who flew in specifically for the game, go?

- He called in the morning and said that he would wait for me after the game.  [We had] a good, professional talk.  But the details, you’ll excuse me, are not for the press.

Osipov also spoke to Nazarov, who, in addition to his position with the Russian national team, is also head coach of KHL team Vityaz Chekhov.  A translation of their conversation, in which Nazarov discussed not only Anisimov, but also his interest in Rangers tough guy Derek Boogaard, can be found here.

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Filed under: Artem Anisimov

Has Glen Sather found a way out of his latest bad contract?
Thursday March 03rd 2011, 12:32 am

Hey look you guys, I still have a blog!  My apologies for the extended absence. I can’t promise it won’t happen again, but for the time being I’m back with a couple of goodies foraged from the Russian press…

Derek Boogaard

Photo: Getty Images

When New York Rangers General Manager Glen Sather signed tough guy Derek Boogaard to a 4-year, $6.5 million contract last summer, the hockey world shook its collective head, sighed, and muttered “there he goes again.” And before the giant enforcer was felled by a concussion in early December, it looked like Sather had in fact saddled his team with yet another albatross contract.   Unable to compete — or keep up — at a satisfactory level for head coach John Tortorella, Boogaard rarely saw more than four or five minutes of ice time a night, sometimes playing as few as three or four shifts in a game.

Boogaard’s injury — he’s not expected to play again this season — has allowed Sather to avoid having to make any tough decisions this year. But there are three more years remaining on his contract.  And with the Rangers needing to re-sign a handful of core restricted free agents this summer, and likely to pursue big-ticket free agent Brad Richards on July 1st, Boogard’s $1.625 million worth of cap space must look awfully enticing.

Enter Andrei Nazarov, head coach of KHL goon squad Checkhov Vityaz.  You know, the team famous for giving NHL/AHL-rejects Chris Simon, Darcy Verot, Brandon Sugden and Josh Gratton a place to ply their trade.

In addition to his duties with Vityaz, Nazarov, a former NHL pugilist himself, is also an assistant coach for the Russian national team.  In that role, he is tasked with being the liaison between the team and Russian players in the NHL.  As a result, Nazarov was in New York for Tuesday’s tilt between the Rangers and Buffalo Sabres, checking up on Russian Ranger Artem Anisimov.  But as Sport-Express reporter Vasily Osipov reveals in his post-game interview with Nazarov, the veteran of 571 NHL games and 1,409 penalty minutes also spoke with his former Minnesota Wild teammate Boogaard, and may have had a secondary purpose for his trip…

- Isn’t it annoying to you that they call you a Black Cloud?  [All the teams Nazarov visited last season missed the playoffs, or made early exits.] The Rangers lost today…

- All these nicknames are how you journalists make your living – laughed Nazarov.  Us hockey people regard this with humor. I think they really call me the Dove of Peace.  Because I wish all our NHLers only good luck and success.

- How would you assess Anisimov’s aggressive and effective game?

- I’d like to refrain from public assessments until I talk with [national team head coach] Vyacheslav Bykov.  But you yourself saw all of Artem’s games this season: the progress in his game is obvious.  Tortorella is a unique and interesting coach, and that Anisimov was able to adapt to his requirements says a lot.  I managed to talk to several representatives of the Rangers, and all of them unanimously praise our legionary.  And it’s worth taking into account that he plays the center position, which is in rather short supply for Russian hockey.  All in all, the only thing that was left for me to do was to congratulate Artem.

- Will Anisimov help the national team at the World Championship in Slovakia?

- That’s not an entirely reasonable question, in view of the fact that Artem’s team is in a desperate fight for a place in the playoffs.  Incidentally, in speaking about Anisimov, we shouldn’t forget about our other legionary on the Rangers – Alexander Frolov.  He has a serious injury, but it’s during just such difficult times that the support and attention of his homeland is important for any player.

- And how would you comment on your interest in Boogard?

- It’s clear that nothing has been decided yet, and that general manager Alexei Zhamnov is ultimately in charge of personnel questions for Vityaz.  But I’ve known Derek ever since we played together for Minnesota, when he was taking his first steps in the NHL.  Even then I guessed that Boogard would make some noise in the League.  And that’s happened.

- I’ll phrase the question in another way: during your trip through the NHL are you searching for a fighter for Vityaz?

- First of all I’m here on national team business.  But — I won’t hide — the problem you mentioned is solved…

Standard disclaimer: Like all reports in the Russian press, this one should be taken with a grain of salt until confirmed by a North American source.

Osipov also spoke to Anisimov after the game — about his season, the national team, and being the focus of recent trade rumors for Brad Richards. A translation of their conversation is available here

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Frolov, unhappy with ice time, has private conversation with Tortorella (Updated)
Tuesday December 07th 2010, 9:21 am
New York. Rangers Alexander Frolov: again on the fourth line.

Photo: AFP

When he signed with the New York Rangers last summer for what was considered at the time a modest $3 million sum, former Los Angeles Kings winger Alex Frolov told Russia’s Sport-Express that a deciding factor in his signing on Broadway was the promise he’d receive significant playing time and most likely play on a line with Rangers’ offensive leader Marion Gaborik.

Fast forward four months: Gaborik has missed nearly half of the Rangers 29 games due to injury and the 28-year old Frolov has found himself relegated to the Rangers fourth line with fellow Russian Artem Anisimov and tough guy Derek Boogard, playing under ten minutes per game in four of his last six contests. Frolov’s lack of ice time coincides with a lack of productivity: the five-time 20 goal scorer has only five goals and 11 points in 29 games, and just a single tally in his last 12.

It was with all that in mind that Sport-Express reporter Vasily Osipov approached the Moscow native following the Rangers home-and-home series with the rival New York Islanders last weekend, looking to understand whether Frolov’s demotion was a result of a conflict with Rangers head coach John Tortorella, or simply the logical outcome for a struggling player. A frustrated Frolov rewarded him with an honest account of his dissatisfaction with the current situation and news he’d approached Tortorella to discuss it days before. A translation of their conversation is provided below.

Update 6:20pm: Andrew Gross asked Frolov about the interview at practice today. You can read Frolov’s comments in Gross’ blog, Ranger Rants.

- A quarter of the season has past. How would you assess your game?

- I’ll start with the team: So far it’s performed pretty well, we’re holding on to a playoff spot. However, right now I’m not playing enough.  And I don’t like that at all.

- What’s happened that in recent games you’ve been moved to the humiliating fourth line with the goon Boogard?

- A couple of days ago I initiated a private conversation with our head coach, [John] Tortorella, during which he claimed that he has nothing against me personally, and is simply trying to find some new [line] combinations. He said that the distribution of playing time depends only on that.

- Is it possible to speak about a conflict between you and Tortorella?

- There is no outright antipathy.

- What aren’t you happy with?

- It’s absolutely unacceptable to me that that I spend 7-8 minutes a game on the ice, especially on an energy line. It’s just not my game, which I told the coach candidly. But there are no personal problems between me and him. I’m not a quarrelsome person. Even in our recent conversation there was no swearing or raised voices. Nobody blamed anyone, we simply discussed the situation. The coach promised that soon everything will change, I just need to be a little patient and work harder in practice.

- Could you say that still haven’t fit into his system?

- In the first few games it was indeed difficult.

- What in particular didn’t you get?

- Torts gives wingers completely different tasks, making them work more on defense. In comparison with the tactics of Los Angeles, where I spent the previous seven seasons, it was very unusual. However I’ve already adapted now to the new system [and] begun to understand the head coach’s requirements. And he seems satisfied with my performance on the ice. Or so he says at least. He promised that in the near future he’ll give me more playing time. We’ll see what happens.

- Did you present any particular complaints to Tortorella?

- To me they’re still not completely clear. He asks that I shoot on goal as much as possible at every opportunity, even from the corners. But yet he demands that I loiter in front of the net, blocking the visibility of the opposition’s goaltender. I’m trying to readjust.

- Everyone knows that Tortorella loves power forwards like Prust, Callahan or Boyle who literally burn everything in their path. Maybe he doesn’t like that sometimes you don’t play with enough aggression?

- As a matter of principal, I don’t skate by an opponent when there is an opportunity to play the body. I don’t think that’s the main problem.

- Is it possible to build any parallels to what occurred to you last year in Los Angeles?

- I don’t want to compare the two situations yet. It’s a long season, everything could still change.

- But you haven’t thought about a trade?

- Not yet. I really hope that after my conversation with Tortorella something changes. But if everything stays the same, then I’ll start to think [about it]…

Osipov also spoke to Frolov’s current linemate Anisimov about the pair’s demotion to the fourth line and his relationship with head coach Tortorella:

- Why have you and Frolov found yourselves on the fourth line?

- It think you have to ask our head coach about that. We, as hockey players, need to go out on the ice and give two hundred percent. Only your play can prove that you’re entitled to more playing time.

- But does Tortorella have any complaints with you?

- He hasn’t presented any to me individually. And there have been no personal conversations about my play.

- Frolov told me in an interview that he had a private conversation with the coach…

- I haven’t talked to Sasha about that, so I can’t say anything. Personally there are no conflicts for me. I just try to do what the coaching staff demands of me. That’s all.

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